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October 28, 2015

Pro Bono Myths and Realities: Legal Aid Organizations

Part 3 of a 7-part series

As noted in my prior post in this week’s special Pro Bono Week series, legal aid organizations play a critical partnership role in pro bono by providing the necessary infrastructure to support pro bono work for lawyers, firms and companies. There are a multitude of benefits for the legal aid organization and its clients when the organization has a top down commitment to pro bono and makes the proper investments in pro bono.

When a legal aid organization runs a good pro bono program, the direct services that volunteers provide are just one part of the benefit. That impact can multiply in many other ways and the potential benefits are almost limitless. But when a pro bono program is mediocre or worse, the opposite can occur. It not only might sour the attorneys and their firms on the organization, it could dampen their view of pro bono and legal aid in general.

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October 27, 2015

Pro Bono Myths and Realities: Lawyers, Law Firms and Corporate Legal Departments

Part 2 of a 7-part series

Any discussion about pro bono should start with lawyers, law firms and corporate legal departments because of the special responsibility our profession holds towards this cause as trustees of the justice system. Fulfilling our special responsibility requires contributions of time and money as well as a strategic use of the influence lawyers, firms and companies have in our community. Pro bono clearly is an integral part of that no matter how much we may be doing on other charitable and community service fronts. It also is just one part of a larger, integrated solution to ensuring equal access to justice.

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October 26, 2015

Pro Bono: Myths, Realities, and Its Proper Role in Access to Justice

Part 1 of a 7-part series

If you talk to enough people about pro bono, it won’t take long before you will hear nonsense like pro bono is the solution to chronic underfunding of legal aid, or equally silly statements like pro bono is nothing more than an overhyped waste of time and energy. And a whole lot of other untruths in between those two extremes.

The truth is pro bono indeed does play an integral role in the larger access to justice landscape, not to mention in our legal profession and in the justice system. But that role too often is overstated, understated or simply misstated and misunderstood, to the detriment of all of us who care about pro bono and equal access to justice.

As we kick off this year’s Pro Bono Week, over the next few days I will be blogging about pro bono as it relates to the key stakeholders in the access to justice cause, closing the loop at the end with some suggestions for all of these stakeholders going forward.

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October 22, 2015

Learn the Ropes at a CBF Advocacy Workshop

Interested in finding out how you can get involved in access to justice advocacy this year? On Tuesday, November 10th, the CBF is hosting an Advocacy Workshop at Winston & Strawn. The workshop will be from 8 am to 9:15 am, and it will feature insightful commentary from CBA Legislative Counsel and County Commission Larry Suffredin. […]

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October 21, 2015

Unconventional Donations Find Many Grateful Homes

When we think of ways law firms can support our pro bono and legal aid community, we think of the big two financial support and pro bono attorney hours. But as Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher and Flom recently showed, support can take many forms, like in-kind contributions of equipment, supplies or services.

Several weeks ago, Skadden reached out to the CBF. After purchasing new equipment, the firm was getting rid of 40 high-speed, used but still perfectly-functioning printers. An email went to CBF grantee organizations and JEP participants. The response was swift and enthusiastic 13 pro bono and legal aid organizations and 6 JEP participants (and the CBF) each were thrilled to receive one or a few new printers.

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October 20, 2015

Bringing Justice to a Flawed System

We all have an obligation to treat other human beings as we want to be treated. Because someone made a mistake does not mean we should abandon them.

In a few wise words, Brian Nelson of Uptown People’s Law Center (UPLC) paraphrases the mission of the organization’s Pro Bono Prisoners Civil Rights Project, one of the many outstanding programs you are supporting through the Investing in Justice Campaign.

Hundreds of letters from inmates at surrounding prisons come across Brian’s desk every week many of them coming from partner law firms and organizations that receive these letters and forward them to UPLC. Every letter gets read, and every inmate gets a response. Many letters contain descriptions of human rights violations, such as overlooking inmate violence or letting injuries go untreated.

Unfortunately, it’s not easy for inmates to report abuse.

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October 16, 2015

Supporting Talented Attorneys in Public Interest

Fellowships awarded to legal aid attorneys and a scholarship to a law student allow them to pursue meaningful careers in public service and continue serving the most vulnerable

On October 14, the CBF presented the 2015 CBF Sun-Times Public Interest Law Fellowships to five legal aid attorneys and the 2015 CBF Abraham Lincoln Marovitz Public Interest Law Scholarship to a law student who plans to pursue a career in public service. These programs aim to help alleviate financial concerns and make it more manageable for these exceptional attorneys to continue their careers in legal aid. In doing so, the CBF helps ensure that the most vulnerable people in our community have access to the protections of our justice system.

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September 22, 2015

JEP Welcomes Senator Durbin

On September 18, Senator Richard Durbin visited the office of the Justice Entrepreneurs Project, an incubator for lawyers to start their own socially-conscious law practices. At his speech at the 2015 ABA Pro Bono Publico Awards luncheon in August, the Senator had highlighted the JEP as an example of an innovative approach to closing the […]

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September 21, 2015

Justice for All: A Fundamental Responsibility of Our Government and Our Legal Community’s Responsibility to Hold Them to It

CBF Report September 2015

“Liberty and justice for all is one of America’s most cherished principles, and a fundamental part of the very fabric of our nation. Our founding fathers fought a revolution for it. Thousands of brave men and women since then€“from Abraham Lincoln to Susan B. Anthony to Martin Luther King and all who fought with them€“risked their lives to ensure that the principle of justice for all truly applied to all Americans.

Justice for all knows no political exclusivity. It is not a Democratic or Republican value, but an American value. At the opening of each and every session of this Senate, we stand together and pledge our allegiance to this founding principle. Millions of schoolchildren pledge their allegiance every day to this fundamental tenet of our country.

Yet today in Illinois and throughout the United States, we are falling far short of fulfilling our nation’s promise of €˜justice for all.'”

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September 17, 2015

Fighting for Renters’ Rights

Chicago has seen its highest percentage of renters in decades. Now the majority of Chicago residents, renters are often the victims of housing injustices, especially low-income renters.  While homeowners facing foreclosure have policies and laws in place to help ease their losses, there has been a gap for renters living in foreclosed buildings. They are […]

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